by Barbara Wright
First sentence: “The buzzard knew.”
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Review copy provided by my place of employment.
It’s 1898, and eleven-year-old Moses Thomas has a good life in Wilmington, North Carolina. He enjoys school, having a perfect attendance record, has friends he likes hanging out with, and a good relationship with both his parents and his grandmother, whom he calls Boo Nanny.
Then things start to change: Moses’s idyllic life falls apart when the white people in Wilmington decide — for what reason we’re not ever really, fully told — that having a black middle class is no longer something they want, and the Red Shirts, North Carolina’s answer to the Klu Klux Klan, performs a coup d’etat, rigging an election, and running the mayor, the chief of police, and most of the African American businessmen out of town, before massacring a number of blacks.
Unfortunately, that paragraph was true. The Wilmington Massacre really happened, and to see it through the eyes of Moses was heartbreaking. However important the massacre, it’s really only the last third of the book. Up until that point, we get glimpses of Moses’ life. His friendship with a white boy named Tommy. His attempt to win a bicycle thwarted because he’s not white. His pride in his father’s college education and involvement in the only black daily in the South. But most of all, his relationship with Boo Nanny, a former slave and the most important person in Moses’ life. It’s a book of little things, small moments, culminating in something horrible and sad.
It’s an interesting look at a time period in history not often explored.